Anders Behring Breivik: murderer, fascist; and object of derision?

Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik was found guilty (and sane) last week. There is an excellent article on Breivik and his ultra right ideology by Matthew Feldman on the BBC website.

Feldman (a Reader in History at Teeside University) is an expert on fascist ideology and the far right.

Feldman notes the “Lone Wolf” nature of Breivik’s murders:

First dubbed “leaderless resistance” by a radical right ideologue in 1982, the “lone wolf” tactic has remained a signature of far-right violence for three decades – one whereby the “terrorist cycle” of preparation and execution is undertaken single-handedly.

“Lone wolf” terrorism represents a tiny – if less detectable – fraction of terrorist attacks.
It remains difficult to accomplish – that is why Breivik’s “manifesto”, comprising some three-quarters of a million words, is so dangerous.
Beyond the incitement to hatred and violence, Breivik’s 2083: A Declaration of European Independence provides a do-it-yourself guide for “lone wolf” terrorism, ranging from a daily bomb-making diary to instructions on how to source materials – both logistical and material – from the dark corners of the internet.
The manifesto supersedes all previous terrorist manuals and concludes, allegedly at 12.51 on the day of Breivik’s attacks: “If you want something done, then do it yourself.”

Feldman also notes Breivik’s obsession with his self appointed enemy “Cultural Marxism” and the supposed “Islamification of Europe”.

Feldman’s analysis is careful and fairly chilling in suggesting that similar extremists may be motivated by a similar evil ideology mixed up in bizarre utterly perverted quasi religious overtones with thoughts about “Knights Templar.” Collectively this is what Feldamn referrs to as “Christianism” – the use of travestied Christian doctrines for the advancement of violent and revolutionary views. Feldman further notes:

That is no reason for anyone to demonise more than a billion worshippers of Jesus Christ. By the same token, Islamism remains a political perversion of a Muslim faith shared by a billion souls.

The only parts I find less easy to accept about Feldman’s analysis is that he suggests “Such anti-liberal doctrines can be – and have been – defeated by robust discussion and debate.” That seems to suggest that the hate filled ideology of the likes of Breivik can be argued against (easy enough) and that such arguments might make future Breivik’s halt on their path to wicked mass murder. That seems less likely: rational debate and explanation of true Christian principles or the real strengths and weaknesses of multiculturalism and legitimate criticisms of it are unlikely to cut much ice with the Breivik’s of this world. That said some might be deterred from beginning such a path.

The other issue I have with Feldman’s analysis is that the only thing which makes Breivik a figure of any relevance are the wicked crimes he committed. The internet is full of the bizarre rantings of those not mentally ill but obsessed with unpleasant views on other people. Furthermore Breivik’s “success” was maybe less wickedly impressive that one might think. He made a home made bomb: something which all manner of unpleasant criminals have done for all manner of reasons. His shooting spree was in actual fact fairly easy to accomplish once he had descended into the moral wickedness needed to plan it. The teenagers murdered were on a relatively small island from which there was no escape. Breivik had a number of guns and a large quantity of ammunition. As such the children had no means of escape and were relatively easy targets.

Leaving aside his wickedness, the banality of Breivik and what we have learned about him shows him to be a pretty pathetic individual. Born into a reasonably privileged background he achieved nothing with his life. Even in planning his murders he claimed to practice by playing “World of Warcraft” for up to 16 hours at a time. In reality playing a computer game for that length of time is simply sad and pathetic. His claiming that such prepared him for his orgy of killing is also fairly silly unless one wants to start down the long debate about computer game violence. I confess to finding the argument that Breivik was preparing for murder by playing World of Warcraft as about as convincing as me claiming I play “Stickwar” to prepare for my own world domination.

Whilst much of what Feldman says about Breivik and ultra right ideology seems very reasonable there is also the defence against the likes of Breivik which he did not mention: by using derision. Clearly what Breivik did was wicked beyond belief. Breivik wants to be seen as part of an ideology and as a role model for other highly unpleasant individuals. In reality, however, Breivik is actually a sad and pathetic individual: a loner because he lacked social skills or any ability to achieve anything. He “achieved” what he did by a combination of his own wickedness, good fortune for himself and bad luck for others. In “achieving” his murders he managed merely to kill defenceless innocents, destroy lives, ruin his own life and actually set back any rational debate that there are problems with liberal multiculturalism. He is by his own let alone anyone else’s analysis a pathetic failure.

Part of our defence against the evil that people like Breivik represent is to scoff at them. Clearly they disgust us, clearly their actions were horrendous and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with the victims. Against the likes of Breivik, however, we should oppose such ideologies but also should sneer in contempt at their poverty of thought and the pathetic nature of their views, their “manifestos” and the preening foolishness of their made up societies and uniforms. Liberal democracy has proved too strong for properly and wickedly organised fascism. It is far too strong for the ideologies of the likes of Breivik.

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  • Derision doesn’t quite cut it for me. This mass-murderer went beyond preening, dressing up and posturing in a uniform. Leaderless or not he carried out the planning and execution (no pun intended) of his crime from sorting out his weaponry and his plan of attack to being able to take the lives of others. He clearly believed in his own doctrine and I doubt very much that the scoffing and derision of his “intellectual betters” would do anything other than reinforce what he believes or needs to believe.

  • tacapall

    Its strange how all these mass shootings and bombings lately have taken place literally hours after government drills with the security forces and emergency services expecting the exact same scenario’s. Its hard to believe one man carried out this attack.

  • Nice piece, Turgon-the-Wise. Thoughtful, balanced, provocative.

    I don’t know what can be done with “lone wolves”, except to extract their teeth. Bit difficult when bomb-making is (apparently) so easy. At least we, in GB — perhaps a bit less so in NI — can inhibit access to fire-arms.

    But derision: of course. It’s what did for Mosley. One version (I hope it’s true) has him raising his arm in the fascist salute. A voice from the rear shouts, “Yes, Oswald, you may leave the room.”

    The problem is, today, the “lone wolf” can find his fellows on the internet; and thereby be strengthened and confirmed in his savagery. In effect, by being selective and exclusive in one’s contacts, one avoids the rest of society. No, no: I just can’t bring myself to argue for censorship.

  • Alias

    “No, no: I just can’t bring myself to argue for censorship.”

    Just as well as violent fanatics proffering manifestoes pre-date the Internet and will survive censorship of it.

    Theodore Kaczynski AKA Unabomber is the role model for Breivik. Kaczynski was a professor of mathematics at Berkeley. Censoring academia would not have stopped him, just as censoring the Internet would not have stopped Breivik.

    Ridicule aimed at fanatics in general, or those on the extreme left or even extreme right, is a hopelessly futile ‘strategy’ too since fanatics don’t self-define as such and ergo the abuse sails on by rather than, somewhat laughably, brings them to their senses…

  • The link below is worth following and the essay worth investing in.

    http://www.signandsight.com/features/493.html

    The radical loser
    Hans Magnus Enzensberger looks at the kind of ideological trigger required to ignite the radical loser – whether amok killer, murderer or terrorist – and make him explode

  • DC

    Basically, one man is not a movement and his actions were totally misplaced as they were appalling.

  • Ruarai

    Speaking of derison, a friend of mine working in national security in the US was routinely met with derision upon arguing against the bureaucratic momentum that equated violent extremismmore or less entirely with Islamism. Breivik provided a temporary reality check, a terrible reminder that violent extremists are not necessarily Isalmists and are often white Christian extermist like Timothy McVeigh. This is important as it goes beyond an intellectual debate and into matters of policy and resource investment.

    The most effective response to dangerous “loaners” is to build a profile: an understand of the identifyable “trigger points” with the the hope of intervening before the tragedy strikes. That and, as Clinton did after McVeigh’ attack, attacking the broader intellectual well from which loan gunmen, deranged or otherwise, sup.

    To paraphrase Susan McKay on such matters a little closer to home: too often the problem is not with silence from political leaders, it’s that extremists are listening very attentively to them.

    On the broader derision point though, tred cautiously. Mosley could have been a much more prominent figure in British history had 5 days in May 1940 broken a little differently. And derision was obviously used with lethal underestimation towards NAZI fascists by the German establishment in the 30s.

    People rarely follow idea, they follow those who espouse the ideas(s). Considered in that context, merely mocking people may only enhance their appeal to the dangerous loaners already feeling isolated and shunned.

    Case in point, I’ve no evidence at hand but I’ll bet that Nick Griffen was helped not one iota by making a fool of himself on Question Time. Had be been banned, however, his ‘threat’ would have been increased.

  • andnowwhat

    Some might be interested to visit the hideous site “Stormfront”.

  • Alias

    The most effective response to dangerous “loaners” is to build a profile: an understand of the identifyable “trigger points” with the the hope of intervening before the tragedy strikes.

    Must you bring bankers into it?

    That aside, the idea of the state having a database of psychological profiles and measuring its citizens against them (and presumably locking up the citizens it deems to be ‘dangerous’ as a necessary precaution) is the stuff that left-wing statist fanatics dream about and those who appreciate freedom have nightmares about. Left-wingers already tried that approach to citizens with communism and it didn’t work. The state is the problem here, but the solution. And the example of Breivik shows the limits of state control.

  • BluesJazz

    Norway is a secular country. Right wing Christians like Breivik are way off the cultural norm in advanced societies. However he appears to have much more in common with the Taliban -who tortured and decapitated masses of people in Afghanistan recently for the crime of ‘dancing’.
    Religion(s) (and all their poisonous philosophies of sectarianism) are the anthisesis of rational liberal thought.
    If all atheists were to be removed from the USA, they would lose 97% of the National Academy of Sciences, but less than 1% of the prison population.

  • theelk11

    He believes he is the right man but in the wrong place at the wrong time and history will vindicate him.
    He must look at some of our lot and curse the lottery of birth.
    The political class here have in the past spouted the same type of thinking but unlike Anders farmed the hard bit out. No lone wolves or internet for our lot back in the day.
    Some are even touted for statues after they carc it.
    Poor Anders ….

  • he older I get the more convinced I get that as a civilisation we peaked sometime around 1967.
    Everything after that date seems to have shown us in decline. It started with punk music I think. Thatcher of course introduced a boorish greed.
    Tinternet has not helped. We overcame Racism in real life…..or at least marginalised it…..only for it to re-surface on message boards and make a comeback into real life.
    I have never played a video game in my life but I observe these games like Warcraft……which seems to take away an element of Humanity. Indeed footage from the recent Wars seem to a form of video game.
    But I cant feel ridicule for Breitvic…….I feel nothing at all not even enough to spell his name correctly. He will be confined to a prison cell for 21 years and I expect that the Norwegians will find a way to ensure he never sees the light of day again.
    Ridicule? No……I reserve that for Margaret Thatcher and George Bush
    Contempt? Yes.
    Disgust? Yes

  • BluesJazz

    Fair enough FJH
    Though to say we peaked in 1967 (before the moon landings) is to ignore Treblinka, Auschwitz, Pol Pot, Rwanda, and a middle east which is only going to get worse.
    Ridicule for Margaret Thatcher? when her legacy is now even Labour manifesto.
    The civilisation we are entering is, as Darwin suggested, one of dog eat dog. Economically speaking. Globalisation and race to the bottom.
    Unsure about your reference to punk music, which was suposed to be about negating capitalism.
    But Breivick (sp) wont have to worry about anything from his 3 room cell -which includes daylight hours.
    Thatcher and Bush have medical care future generations will not.
    So it goes….

  • BluesJazz

    Obviously the WW2 analogies are before 1967, but the idea that 1947-1967 represents the peak of humanity is a bit silly.Nostalgia writ large.

  • Mister_Joe

    Derision isn’t enough. Killers like this man or the Unabomber, or McVeigh are immune to it. Incidents like this will continue. The only hope that we have against them is that when they are caught alive they will be sent to jail for the rest of their lives. That just might deter some others.

  • Manfarang

    Breivik may not be insane in the sense that he has some kind of mental illness but he is clearly a psychopath.
    Another psychopath who has been in the news is Ian Brady, someone who was an admirer of the Nazis.
    These people have to be kept locked away.

  • aquifer

    Humans are jumpy, programmed by an existence of hunting and gathering to suspend rational thought when an attack may be imminent.

    Part of the fascist method is to use violence and the threat of it to displace rational debate, raising the emotional temperature so that violence will remain a concern, and to promote manifestos that would fail the democratic test.

    I don’t care about that Norweigan.

    I care about the relationship that many of our ministers have with violence and the threat of it. DUP ministers have some funny ways of avoiding real scrutiny.

  • Greenflag

    @ ruarai ,

    ‘Mosley could have been a much more prominent figure in British history had 5 days in May 1940 broken a little differently. ‘

    Indeed .At one point the then ‘chattering ‘classes knew that Mosley would eventually become British Prime Minister .They just could’nt decide which party he would lead -Tory or Labour .

    In his post war years Mosley spent a lot of time in Ireland -Galway and Waterford with his wife (the Mitford Diana ) mother of a prominent member of the Guinness family .
    He was ‘tolerated’ by the Free State authorities and afterwards by the Republic’s on the basis that he had in the 1920’s condemned the then British Government for sending the Black and Tans into Ireland to quosh the ‘revolting ‘ Irish.

    The ascent of Churchill to the PM position instead of the heir apparent Lord Halifax probably was the single greatest factor that prevented Britain from ending up as a ‘Quisling’ State operating outside of but tolerated by the Nazi empire. Would the USA would have ‘freed ‘Europe had that political condition remained ?

  • Greenflag

    ‘The most effective response to dangerous “loaners” is to build a profile: an understand of the identifyable “trigger points” with the the hope of intervening before the tragedy strikes.’

    An errant Freudian ‘slip’ ‘loaner ‘ instead of loner – but it could be postured as to which ‘sociopathology’ has done most to increase the possibility of a world wide tilt into anarchy and chaos resulting in another generational outbreak of totalitarian solutions – Brevik’s NOT insane (as determined by the Norwegian Court ) mass murder of children and young adults or the world wide economic chaos brought about by the Wall St/City of London amongst others banksters ? A recent psychological study revealed that as many as 10% (possibly more IIRC) of top CEO’s profile in the ‘sociopath’ range as compared to a much smaller figure for the rest of the population .

    Is there any answer to the Breivik’s or the Madoff’s of this world ? In a dog eat dog world with the accompanying race to the bottom probably not .Such people will always emerge .

    There are some crimes for which I believe the ‘death penalty ‘should be implemented . Breivik’s is one and Madoff’s is another .

    There is of course the school of thought that holds the view that individuals such as Brievik, Madoff , Stanford and Eichmann are /were all brain damaged and thus not responsible for their ‘evil’ crimes and yet that Norwegian Court judged Brievik to be sane ?

    I’ll put it down to another case of my ears not hearing what my eyes are seeing and vice versa 🙁

  • Greenflag

    @ blues jazz ,

    ‘If all atheists were to be removed from the USA, they would lose 97% of the National Academy of Sciences, but less than 1% of the prison population.’

    I can believe it but do you have any source for that data gem ?

  • GF,

    Would the USA would have ‘freed ‘Europe had that political condition remained ?

    Perhaps not, but the Russians would.

    Joe,

    Derision isn’t enough. Killers like this man or the Unabomber, or McVeigh are immune to it.

    It’s not about changing the minds of people already committed – it’s almost impossible to do that. It’s about stopping impressionable youngsters following, by puncturing their mystique.

    There’s no way you’re going to get legions of adoring fans if you’re uncool.

  • Greenflag @ 11:12 am:

    Allow me to assist you, sir!

    The basis of that neat conflation seems to be:

    ¶ for disbelieving scientists, Nature, vol 394, no 6691, p313;

    ¶ for pious gaolbirds, the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I wonder if this one might, just might be affected by the views of parole boards.

  • Very impressive sourcing MR, up there with the needle in a haystack.

  • articles @ 12:11 pm:

    Thanking yow! Thanking yow!

    Nah: just a dab hand with Google.

    I’d also muse on whether those scientists, as much as those in stir, may also have succumbed to peer pressure.

    By the way (a bit more useless knowledge) the expression originally was “a needle in a bottle of hay”. As with Robert Greene, A quip for an upstart courtier (1592): ‘He gropeth in the dark to find a needle in a bottle of hay.’ A bot or botte apparently being a full bundle, and a botel being a little one. I think in Middle English there may be a difference of grammatical gender — but then some bottles always were more seductive than others.

    The relevance to this thread is that, quite frankly, if a “manifesto” requires six dozen wasted lives, I’m so overwhelmed and bewildered I’d seek a bottle or several and oblivion in a haystack well away from gross inhumanity. This is one of the few threads on Slugger that totally defeat constructive opinion or suggestion.

  • Greenflag

    @ Andrew Gallagher ,

    ‘Perhaps not, but the Russians would.’

    No they would’nt.The Soviets would simply have imposed another totalitarian tyranny had they defeated the nazis alone. .You may be too young to remember why the Berlin Wall was built . As one who’s actually been behind the Iron Curtain I can assure you the wall was built not to keep people out but rather the reverse .

    Will we escape the next ‘totalitarianism ? With approx 26% of the USA electorate poised to elect the next USA , 24 % opting for the loser and almost 50% probably not even bothering to cast a vote – one has justifiable cause for doubt!

  • PaddyReilly

    BJ, MR

    An interesting conceit, but based on prejudiced data. As prisoners have no rights to entertainment or assembly apart from in the practice of their religion, they vote with their feet for religion, of the communal rather than the personal sort, and use the office as a forum for passing messages, drugs, etc.

    But if, unlike the young man of Belgravia, they truly cared for God and for saviour, it is highly unlikely that they would be in prison, unless it were for religious dissent, like our own dear Ian Paisley.

  • Greenflag

    @ Malcolm Redfellow ‘

    Anytime you want to assist me please go right ahead 😉 Note to self -I must improve my googling I must improve my googling and so on for 1,435,615 hits in 0.5 secs . The Delphian Oracle is no longer mythology 😉

  • Mister_Joe

    Andrew at 11:15

    I take your point about the power of derision to stop others following an individual.

  • Ruarai

    Mister_Joe and Andrew Gallagher:

    “There’s no way you’re going to get legions of adoring fans if you’re uncool.”
    So how to explain the early Christians and a many other religious groups since who thrive in the face of mockery?

    Warning people in advance that they’ll face derision (particularly while demonizing the prospective mockers) turns out to be a pretty effective pre-emptive means of insulating against criticism – unfortunately.

  • Mister_Joe

    Ruarai,

    You missing two things at least. Firstly the messages being preached and secondly, the audience and the differing abilities to communicate especially to large numbers then and now.

  • Ruarai

    Mister_Joe – elaborate…

  • Mister_Joe

    Ruarai,

    Jesus, for example, was preaching love and the equality of all people. The establishment who were mocking him didn’t realise the power of such a message to the poor and downtrodden. Breivik and others like him preach hatred and, I believe, the potentially receptive audience is much smaller.
    With our mass communication abilities today, it is easier to reach large numbers and to use the power of derision.

  • Ruarai

    Hey Joe,

    I think establishments have good reason to embrace messages to the poor and downtrodden that encourage them not to change their circumstances in this life but hope for bliss in another. What could be less threatening to the status quo than that?

    Regarding mass communication, this angle – while great – merits a full post in response, particularly around it’s ability to, first the first time, enable loopers of all types to create virtual communities where previously they would have been isolated. It enables hermetically sealed virtual communities to network and find affirmation they never would have before – no?

  • Mister_Joe

    Ruarai,

    Can’t really answer as I know next to nothing about such communities (I’m an oul geezer). I was just musing out loud.

  • Alias

    I recall being a fan of Leonard Cohen at a time when it was deeply ‘uncool’ to find meaning in his songs. I also recall the ridicule: “Are you that depressed?”; “Music to play when the party is over and you want to clear the room”; “Music to commit suicide to”, etc. It also produced the best short review of a concert ever found in NME: “Leonard Cohen is a boring old drone and should go the fuck back to Canada where he belongs.” And I still recall a thick Belfast accent at a concert in Dublin in 1985 calling out, “You can’t sing, ya mad bastard.”

    I actually preferred Cohen before he became an icon of cool, when he couldn’t even fill a 2000 seat boxing venue in Dublin. I knew that he was a genius songwriter, and there was a pleasure is recognising that while society couldn’t tell its arse from its elbow on the subject.

    That’s the problem with cool. Britney Spears is cool (or was) and so was Tony Blair. Only muppets play any attention to what others deem to be cool or not. The ‘weapon’ of cool used as a tool of social control is itself deeply uncool, and would be dismissed as such by any gullible teenagers that our nannystaters may fear are in mortal danger of becoming mass-murderers with a manifesto…

  • Greenflag

    @ mister joe ,

    ‘With our mass communication abilities today, it is easier to reach large numbers and to use the power of derision.’

    The difference between today’s time and Charlie Chaplin’s when he caricatured the Great Dictator is that the State is no longer as powerful as it once was to censor information or art forms or films or books which would disrespect the Great Leader/Fuhrer /King/Queen /President etc etc .

    Although some states notably China do what they can to censor . The hermetically sealed virtual communities that Ruarai refers to are just that hermetically sealed .Once they open up to ‘criticism ‘ they fall apart due mainly to the inbuilt contradictions embedded in some of the more ‘lunatic’ fringe elements . You can have all the affirmation you want but if it’s at odds with what 99% of humanity believes or accepts to be ‘normal ‘ then it’s not going anywhere -for very long anyway.

  • GF,

    ‘Perhaps not, but the Russians would.’

    No they would’nt.The Soviets would simply have imposed another totalitarian tyranny had they defeated the nazis alone. .You may be too young to remember why the Berlin Wall was built . As one who’s actually been behind the Iron Curtain I can assure you the wall was built not to keep people out but rather the reverse .

    I did actually have about three paragraphs written about the details of counterfactual history but decided it was better to delete them. I am perfectly well aware of what life under Communism was like. Do not mistake my reluctance to divert the thread off topic for ignorance.

  • Greenflag

    @ AG

    I’m not telepathic and thus was not aware of your deletion referred to above . Accuse you of ignorance ? Never . If I did you’d be in no doubt that I did -which I did’nt .

    ‘ I am perfectly well aware of what life under Communism was like’

    It was’nt bad for the 1 or 2% elite party members which prompts a return of the old cold war yarn on Radio Yerevan

    Question :

    ‘Whats the difference between Communism and Capitalism ?’.

    Answer :

    ‘Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man and Communism is vice versa’

  • Reader

    Mister_Joe: Breivik and others like him preach hatred and, I believe, the potentially receptive audience is much smaller.
    I doubt it – I think the failure of Breivik and the like to get followers is only because of the Awful Warning from the 20th Century. In order to preserve the value of the Awful Warning for future generations, it’s worth remembering Godwin’s law to stop it from being trivialised.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Breivik and others like him preach hatred and, I believe, the potentially receptive audience is much smaller.’

    True for now .Add in tens years of recession and a fast disappearing middle class and mass unemployment and the receptive audience for totalitarianism of the right and of the left will ‘swamp ‘ the failed ‘middle’.

    ‘I think the failure of Breivik and the like to get followers is only because of the Awful Warning from the 20th Century”

    I would’nt bet on it . People forget ,Perhaps in NI they don’t but 50 years after WW2 just look at what happened/was allowed to happen in the Balkans . The 21st century has’nt reached 2014 yet the 100th anniversary of WWI and already hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered in Iraq , Afghanistan , Syria and North Africa both by their own regimes and by outside powers .